My union left a glossy flier in the teapoint today called ‘The Alternative’. It included the usual selection of photo’s og public sector workers brandishing placards and flags in some outdoor location (do these people actually work for a living??), and a selection of carefullt chosen statistics showing how poor a government worker’s lot is these days.

Some made up pen-pictures exhorted us to empathise with Roxanne a poor student working for the DWP, Dorothy working at the DVLA (but living in Ammanford) and David working as a Police Support Worker (WTF is one of them, anyway?!!? DO you actually catch baddies?? In fact do any of you create anything of lasting value to the British economy??!? Whoops, sorry, got a bit het up there…). 

I scanned this publication from cover to cover yet despite its title – I found no mention of any actual alternative to the austerity cuts the government is making. Unless the alternative to cutting back on spending more money than you have is, er, carry on spending more money than you have. I couldn’t find any carefully researched fiscal alternatives in which the economy would be saved, jobs created and inflation brought back down, credit extended to small businesses and the Euro collapse averted. Then I realised why. The newsletter was written by sixth-form socialists, with their Trotsky t-shirts and copies of The Ragged-trousered Philanthropists, not real people like you and I. 

We reap what we sow.  

The fact is that these people – made-up or real – lived a non-self-reliant lifestyle. They probably allowed life-style inflation to increase as wage packets increased, not saving for a rainy day, certainly not investing or growing their own capital. They engineered their lives to rely upon a fixed and regular wage packet, assuming this would arrive monthly for the rest of their lives. They then blew the lot on funding a consumerist lifestyle, probably including such essentials as subscription TV, smart phones, and other suchlike ‘wants’, that sub-consciously become ‘needs’.

Why am I being a bit acerbic about all this? Because I was one of those people. In fact you could say I still am by association as I still pay subs to that particular union, though that’s because I believe an union’s raison-d’ete is purely for collective bargaining when it comes to wage negotiations. That’s where their energies should be concentrated, not protesting against the employer’s business plans.

I don’t get this marxist idea of work somehow ennobling man’s spirit – that’s dangerously close to ‘Arbeit macht frei’ (and we all know where that slogan is prominently displayed). That idea ultimately leads to any ‘work’ somehow, no matter how demeaning or pointless; a man is not complete unless he is engaged in labour. Those who choose not to work, as we see in other more famous blogs than this one, are seen as outsiders at best, or at worst, scroungers – a lower order of society than labourers. Far better that they give of their energies to someone else in exchange for a wage, and be thankful for it.

But eventually – you get lazy. Your lifestyle expands to consume the entire wage you earn, and you become dependent on that wage arriving every month. You cannot bear to imagine what would happen if that wage did not arrive, you have no plan B.  When that lifeline becomes threatened all you can do is protest. You become a victim.